Then: Sutton Place

Photographs by Ezra Stoller

Valerian Rybar was considered the “world’s most expensive decorator” in 1972. His clients were the ritziest in town: Samuel and Mitzi Newhouse, Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, Elizabeth Arden, the Plaza Athénée Hotel. And while Rybar doled out some serious fabulousness to his clients, he most certainly didn’t skimp when it came to his own Sutton Place home. His luxurious six-room lair was done up in just three colors—coral, brown, and silver—proving that Rybar had a way of making even the simplest palettes thrilling. The living-room walls were lined with coral velvet; the dining room was plastered with 400 brown books—all fake, but bound, with titles relating to various chapters of his life (one of them, called “International Boredom,” was alleged to allude to Rybar’s seven-year marriage to Irish brewing heiress Aileen Guinness). The “books” ran floor-to-ceiling in the dining room and gallery. His preference for silver was perhaps the most compelling. He used stainless steel on the fireplace, coffee tables, sinks, closets, cabinets, bathtub, walls, and even the floor. Rybar had it etched to look, “as precious as a Fabergé box.” (Rybar lived here with his partner, Jean-Francois Daigre, until his death in 1990 at age 71.)

The dressing room was significantly larger than the adjacent bedroom. The hand-painted pony-skin bench was wired to be raised and lowered to serve as a luggage rack, ironing board or massage table. Photo: Ezra Stoller

Rybar’s command center in the master bedroom: A stainless-steel-topped side table with built-in telephone and intercom; controls for the alarm clock, television, music, lights, and dimmers; plus a switch for the electric blanket. Photo: Ezra Stoller

The hall and living-room walls were covered in coral velvet. Rybar had the stainless-steel fireplace, ceiling molding, doorframe, tables, ottomans, and floor custom-made. The silver-gray mink rug is by Oscar de la Renta. Photo: Ezra Stoller

The faux library hid storage and doors to the rest of the apartment. In the dining room, steel and marble tables sat on an etched stainless-steel floor. The tables were swathed in batik fabric to match the coral-velvet chairs. Photo: Ezra Stoller

Then: Sutton Place